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Recognition month honors home-remodeling industry

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by Jan K. Allen

SBJ Contributing Writer

According to the

National Association

of Home Builders (NAHB) Remodelorsª Council, there are three predominant reasons for remodeling.

First, according the the council's statistics, houses are getting older. The median age of U.S. housing has climbed from 20 years in the mid-1980s to 30 years today.

Changes in size and style over the past two decades bring up the next two reasons the need for more space and lifestyle changes, according to the NAHB report.

The need for more space was cited by remodelers in a 1997 survey as the No. 1 reason for remodeling. Families tend to grow. The need for an extra bedroom or a second bath becomes apparent in the process. People often opt to add on rather than buy a new house.

"People don't want to leave their neighborhoods," said Ron Murphy, co-owner of Jim Murphy and Sons Construction Company.

It seems many home buyers no longer begin with the basic starter home. They buy the house they plan to stay in for a while. Once they are attached to neighbors, schools, and the location they've chosen, many people would rather remodel than move, Murphy said.

Dave Knetzer, estimator and part owner in Oak Grove Construction Company, said the growth of the remodeling business is an ongoing process. Every new house or building will eventually be a potential prospect for remodeling.

Not only are homes aging, but the owners age as well and need to modify their living space, Knetzer said. Sometimes people move a washer and dryer out of the basement so they don't have to go up and down stairs to do the laundry, he said, necessitating the addition of a laundry room.

Some remodeling jobs may be as simple as removing a bathtub to install a shower. Other projects may include adding a room, a screened-in porch or a deck.

"Every situation is unique," Knetzer said.

The average room addition can cost $30,000 or more. In the average-priced home, this is usually more than the resulting increase in the resale value, but the homeowner often expects to benefit from his use of the additional space more than he expects to gain by an increased resale value, according to Knetzer.

Kitchen updates are among the most common renovations. The average cost runs between $10,000 and $20,000, Knetzer said.

Another popular makeover is the addition of a porch, deck, patio or garden, according to Murphy.

"The back yard is becoming a place where people spend their weekends," he said.

Both Murphy and Knetzer stated the largest share of their business comes from south and southeast Springfield, but Murphy added that he doesn't feel it's because these areas are doing more remodeling.

"Most of our business comes from referrals, so it tends to come from the areas where we've had previous jobs," he said.

May is National Home Remodeling Month. At the national level, the NAHB report indicated that the month-long recognition of the profession is a way to attract young builders into the trade.

On the the local level, Murphy said, there are three primary goals of the regional Remodelors Council. First, it gives the council an opportunity to give recognition to local remodelers. Second, it promotes worthwhile projects and volunteer efforts to worthy causes. And finally, it is a way to let people know where they can go to find qualified companies for their remodeling projects.

People should beware of the fly-by-night contractor, Murphy said. They should make sure the company is licensed and has a clean record.

Homeowners have the right to know if the contractor has insurance in place. They should ask for references and get a detailed bid so there are no surprises.

Although it is common practice to make a down payment before the work starts, a person should be wary of a remodeler who asks for full payment up front, the council advises.

The local HBA office maintains a list of qualified remodeling companies which is available to the public on request.

The NAHB Remodelors Council has a website to offer tips to homeowners on how to manage their remodeling projects successfully. It provides information on everything from choosing a remodeler to surviving the project.

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